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Russia-Ukraine war live: Russian troops enter US base in Niger

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Ukraine will at some point have to enter into talks with Russia to bring an end to their more than two-year-old war, a senior Ukrainian intelligence official said in an interview published on Thursday.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has repeatedly ruled out talks with the Kremlin, and a decree he issued after Russia formally annexed four Ukrainian regions in 2022 deems negotiations “impossible”, Reuters reports.

But major-general Vadym Skibitsky, deputy chief of Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence directorate, told the Economist magazine that talks would eventually be needed, as would be the case with any war.

“General Skibitsky says he does not see a way for Ukraine to win the war on the battlefield alone. Even if it were able to push Russian forces back to the borders – an increasingly distant prospect – it wouldn’t end the war,” the magazine wrote.

“Such wars can only end with treaties, he says. Right now, both sides are jockeying for the ‘the most favourable position’ ahead of potential talks. But meaningful negotiations can begin only in the second half of 2025 at the earliest, he guesses.”

Zelenskiy and other officials have said Russia is not invited to a “peace summit” planned for Switzerland in June as there is no assurance that Moscow will bargain in good faith.

Lisa O’Carroll

Germany has said it has evidence that Russian state-sponsored hackers were behind an “intolerable” cyber-attack last year in which several websites were knocked off line in apparent response to Berlin’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine.

The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said a federal government investigation into the 2023 cyber-attack on the Social Democrat party (SPD) had just concluded.

“Today we can say unambiguously [that] we can attribute this cyber-attack to a group called APT28, which is steered by the military intelligence service of Russia,” she told a news conference during a visit to Australia.

“In other words, it was a state-sponsored Russian cyber-attack on Germany, and this is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable and will have consequences.”

The Russian defence ministry said on Friday that its air defence forces destroyed six drones that Ukraine launched overnight.

Five of the drones were downed over the Belgorod region that borders Ukraine and one over the Crimean Peninsula, the defence ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

The ministry did not provide any details on possible damage due to the attack.

Reuters could not immediately verify the Russian defence ministry’s comments.

Hungary will need to boost defence spending further next year if the war in neighbouring Ukraine drags into 2025, reducing the amount of funds available for other expenditure, prime minister Viktor Orban told public radio on Friday.

Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has triggered a surge in defence spending on Nato’s eastern flank led by Poland, which has doubled defence expenditure to 3.9% of economic output by 2023 from 2014 levels based on NATO figures, Reuters reported.

While strongly opposing Western military and financial support to Ukraine over concerns of the conflict spilling over into Europe, Hungary has also ramped up its defence spending sharply, to 2.43% of GDP last year, above a 2% Nato guideline.

“If the war drags on into 2025, then the 2023-2024 defence spending levels will not be sufficient and will have to be increased,” Orban said in an interview, adding that the move would leave less funding for other purposes.

Russian troops enter base housing US military in Niger, US official says

Good morning and welcome to the blog. The time in Kyiv and Moscow is approaching 10.30am.

In a worrying sign of how tensions are spreading, Russian military personnel have entered an air base in Niger that is hosting US troops, a senior US defence official told Reuters.

The move that follows a decision by Niger’s junta to expel US forces.

It puts US and Russian troops in close proximity at a time when the nations’ military and diplomatic rivalry is increasingly acrimonious over the conflict in Ukraine.

The military officers ruling the West African nation have told the US to withdraw its nearly 1,000 military personnel from the country, which, until a coup last year had been a key partner for Washington’s fight against insurgents who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more.

A senior US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russian forces were not mingling with US troops but were using a separate hangar at Airbase 101, which is next to Diori Hamani international airport in Niamey, Niger’s capital.

We will bring you more on this as it develops. In other news:

  • Weapons supplied by Britain to Ukraine can be used to strike inside Russia, David Cameron has said, as the UK foreign secretary promised £3bn a year “for as long as it is necessary” to help Kyiv.

  • Emmanuel Macron has said the question of sending western troops to Ukraine would “legitimately” arise if Russia broke through Ukrainian frontlines and Kyiv made such a request. In an interview with the Economist, the French president maintained his stance of strategic ambiguity, saying: “I’m not ruling anything out, because we are facing someone who is not ruling anything out.”

  • At least eight children were injured in the town of Derhachi in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv region on Thursday when Russian guided bombs struck a site close to a sports complex where they had been training, local officials said. An elderly man was also wounded.

  • Russia said on Thursday it had captured the village of Berdychi which lies about 12km (7 miles) north-west of Avdiivka – a week after Ukrainian forces pulled out.

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